A call for an open, informed study of all aspects of consciousness

  • Department of Psychology, Lund University, Lund, Sweden

Science thrives when there is an open, informed discussion of all evidence, and recognition that scientific knowledge is provisional and subject to revision. This attitude is in stark contrast with reaching conclusions based solely on a previous set of beliefs or on the assertions of authority figures. Indeed, the search for knowledge wherever it may lead inspired a group of notable scientists and philosophers to found in 1882 the Society for Psychical Research in London. Its purpose was “to investigate that large body of debatable phenomena… without prejudice or prepossession of any kind, and in the same spirit of exact and unimpassioned inquiry which has enabled Science to solve so many problems.” Some of the areas in consciousness they investigated such as psychological dissociation, hypnosis, and preconscious cognition are now well integrated into mainstream science. That has not been the case with research on phenomena such as purported telepathy or precognition, which some scientists (a clear minority according to the surveys conducted http://en.wikademia.org/Surveys_of_academic_opinion_regarding_parapsychology) dis-miss a priori as pseudoscience or illegitimate. Contrary to the negative impression given by some critics, we would like to stress the following:

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Where the imaginal appears real: a positron emission tomography study of auditory hallucinations

Abstract

An auditory hallucination shares with imaginal hearing the property of being self-generated and with real hearing the experience of the stimulus being an external one. To investigate where in the brain an auditory event is “tagged” as originating from the external world, we used positron emission tomography to identify neural sites activated by both real hearing and hallucinations but not by imaginal hearing. Regional cerebral blood flow was measured during hearing, imagining, and hallucinating in eight healthy, highly hypnotizable male subjects prescreened for their ability to hallucinate under hypnosis (hallucinators). Control subjects were six highly hypnotizable male volunteers who lacked the ability to hallucinate under hypnosis (nonhallucinators). A region in the right anterior cingulate (Brodmann area 32) was activated in the group of hallucinators when they heard an auditory stimulus and when they hallucinated hearing it but not when they merely imagined hearing it. The same experimental conditions did not yield this activation in the group of nonhallucinators. Inappropriate activation of the right anterior cingulate may lead self-generated thoughts to be experienced as external, producing spontaneous auditory hallucinations.

PMID:
9465124
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
PMCID:
PMC19222

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Action on mental health could help save London up to £26 billion a year

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The scale of mental ill health in London is costing the capital around £26 billion a year, a new report commissioned by the Mayor Boris Johnson has revealed today.
In any given year, an estimated one in four Londoners will experience a diagnosable mental health condition. A third of these will experience two or more conditions at once. According to a Department of Health report, the impact of mental ill health is greater than cancer and cardiovascular disease. It represents around 22.8% of the total, compared to 15.9% and 16.2% respectively .
Close to £7.5 billion is spent each year to address mental ill health in London. This includes spending on health and social care to treat illness, benefits to support people living with mental ill health, and costs to education services and the criminal justice system. However, these costs are only part of the total £26 billion lost to London each year through such issues as reduced quality of life and productivity.
The Greater London Authority report provides a range of data, highlighting the direct and indirect costs of mental ill health to the city’s economy. For example, at least one in 10 children is thought to have a clinically significant mental health problem, and the impact of childhood psychiatric disorders is estimated to cost the capital’s education system approximately £200 million per year.
In social care costs alone, London boroughs spend around £550 million a year treating mental disorder, and another £960 million is spent each year on benefits to support people with mental ill health.
The report shows how London’s businesses are also affected – it is estimated that a staggering £10.4 billion is lost each year, including £7.2 billion due to increased worklessness. £920 million alone is lost annually to sickness absence, and a further £1.9 billion is lost to reduced productivity.
The Mayor of London Boris Johnson said: ‘This report is a rallying cry to increase yet further our response to this very pressing and pervasive issue. There are still many misconceptions about what mental ill health is, how it happens and what can be done about it. The result is that those struggling with mental ill health often go unnoticed and unsupported. It affects our relationships with others, limits educational achievement and increases sickness absence and worklessness. Indeed, the effects of mental ill health impact upon each and every aspect of our lives.’
Launching the new report London Mental Health – The Invisible Costs of Mental Ill Health, Deputy Mayor Victoria Borwick said: ‘This timely report reveals how far-reaching the effects of mental ill health are, not just on individuals and their loved ones, but on wider society and indeed the economy. It shows that this is not just an issue for health and social care professionals, but also for politicians and business leaders. It is vital that we work together to support people living with mental ill health and to mitigate the wider impacts which are so costly to London’s economy.’
Professor Martin Knapp, Professor of Social Policy, London School of Economics, who was on the report’s working group, said: ‘The fact that mental health problems have enormous consequences is well known, but the findings in this report illustrate just what a pervasive impact they have on the capital’s population. £26 billion a year is far too high a price to the city, and much of it is because we are not addressing individual and social needs properly. Those costs will continue to rise if we do nothing. I want the findings of this report to spur the wider London community to help meet those needs.’
Mental ill health is one of the priority areas identified by the London health Board, and the Mayor is keen that it is an issue that will be considered through the London Health Commission led by Lord Ari Darzi. The Deputy Mayor Victoria Borwick will also advocate for the issue, including representing the Mayor at the Pan-London Dementia Action Alliance and by acting as a mental health champion as part of the Local Authority Mental Health Challenge. Mental health will also be integrated better into the well-being activities being coordinated through the Mayor’s Healthy Schools London programme. Mental health is also one of the issues tackled by the Mayor’s Workplace Health Charter, which was set up to encourage and support employers that create a health enhancing workplace.
The report is available to download from – www.london.gov.uk/mentalhealth.

Transpersonal Psychologist


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